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Interview and Photos: Olivia O’Brien talks inspiration, emotions and the internet before her sold out show at The Roxy

Purple and pink hair abounded!  A hot August afternoon, the line for 18 year-old, purple-haired Olivia O’Brien’s sold out show at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip was fun and colorful. Sofya Wang got the night started with energetic covers and originals.

The Roxy was packed tight with an eager crowd that danced and sang along to each of Olivia’s words despite the heat. The five new, unreleased songs Olivia played received enthusiastic praise and encouragement. Laced with emotional vocals and honest lyrics, Olivia’s catchy tunes made it difficult not to dance.

We got to catch up with Olivia, hear all about her new music and talk about inspiration, writing and the internet.

Olivia O’Brien

How would you compare your new music to your EP ‘It’s Not That Deep’?
My new music is similar, it’s not a complete change. It feels more interesting. It has more organic instruments and it’s more guitar-based. I have inspiration from a bunch of different genres rather than before when I was kind of like, “I’m going to make R&B leaning pop.” I kind of just threw that out the window and was like, “I’m going to make whatever I feel like!”

What inspired that change?
I started listening to older music and different genres and I was like, “This is cool!” I feel like before all I listened to was R&B. That was it. Now I listen to old rock and alternative music and a bunch of different stuff…including super old R&B like The Supremes.

What’s your writing process like, does it differ for each song?
It’s kind of whatever comes to me! Sometimes I’ll be driving and I’ll hear something in my head and pull out my phone and sing it into my phone’s voice notes. Thank god no one’s in the car with me cause I look insane! (laughs)

It just kind of depends. Normally I’ll have a writing session scheduled a few months or weeks in advance so I’ll kind of plan what I’m going to write for it. I’ll write things down in my notes as I get inspired and then I’ll look through my notes when I’m in the session and decide, “I want to write about this today.”

That leads us to another question – what inspires you?
Pretty much everything that goes on in my life! I can somehow find a way to dramatically sing about it (laughs). Normally I feel I kind of have to kind of exaggerate because, well, I’m really dramatic and emotional. My friend told me, “You’re the most emotional person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” and I was like, “But that’s why I have a career!”

I’m just inspired by my own emotions and f***ed up s*** people do to me (laughs). I turn it into good. So go ahead hurt me… I’ll make money (laughs).

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

You’ve been in LA for about 2.5 years, how is it?
I’m used to it by now, sometimes I actually forget that I live here now. LA used to seem like such a foreign concept to me – it was like, ‘Oh my gosh! LA! Celebrities!’

Now… I really don’t care, it’s just where I live. When people act like they’re really cool, it’s really funny to me. I just laugh…you just have to make a joke about it. I don’t want to hang out with people who are like that so I just surround myself with the good ones. I have my best friends! I live with 3 of my best friends and all my friends are amazing.

What do you think about the internet (streaming platforms, social media, etc.) and the music industry today?
It’s definitely helped a lot. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have, you know, Sound Cloud and Twitter – which is how everything happened, so I think it’s really cool. I feel like anyone can kind of do music now – if you get a mini keyboard and download Garage Band, you can literally do anything you want! It’s cool. I think the accessibility of it all is great.

My last song I released called “UDK” is about people assuming they know things about you because you put it online or you see them at a party one time and then they’re like “I know everything about her!” – so it enables people to think they know you because they see you when you’re posting. They think they’ve seen everything they need to know but really they don’t know anything about you.

What are you working on now?
I have an album hopefully coming out next year. I’m really excited about it! I’ve been working on music for almost 3 years now and all that time I was like, “Oh, I need to make an album!” But nothing ever felt like it went together and then in the past six months, every song I was making was different but still very cohesive and sounded like it could be part of a project. So now that I have that I’m like, “F*** yeah!” I’ll be releasing a bunch more singles and then the album!

Any upcoming shows?
Wow, I play Outside Lands in San Francisco in 2 days! Oh my god! And then Hot 100 Festival in Long Island and Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle.

Lastly, do you still enjoy going for long car rides?
At night, yes! At 3 am I’ll go drive around. When I’m sad. The place where we shot the “UDK” artwork is my place where I go to whenever I’m sad, it’s a really pretty view. I just go park my car and listen to music.

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

Sofya Wang

Sofya Wang

Zoe Sher
Zoe Sher is a portrait, event, music and commercial photographer in Los Angeles. More of her work is at zoesherphotography.com.

Interview and Photos: Olivia O’Brien talks inspiration, emotions and the internet before her sold out show at The Roxy

Purple and pink hair abounded!  A hot August afternoon, the line for 18 year-old, purple-haired Olivia O’Brien’s sold out show at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip was fun and colorful. Sofya Wang got the night started with energetic covers and originals.

The Roxy was packed tight with an eager crowd that danced and sang along to each of Olivia’s words despite the heat. The five new, unreleased songs Olivia played received enthusiastic praise and encouragement. Laced with emotional vocals and honest lyrics, Olivia’s catchy tunes made it difficult not to dance.

We got to catch up with Olivia, hear all about her new music and talk about inspiration, writing and the internet.

Olivia O’Brien

How would you compare your new music to your EP ‘It’s Not That Deep’?
My new music is similar, it’s not a complete change. It feels more interesting. It has more organic instruments and it’s more guitar-based. I have inspiration from a bunch of different genres rather than before when I was kind of like, “I’m going to make R&B leaning pop.” I kind of just threw that out the window and was like, “I’m going to make whatever I feel like!”

What inspired that change?
I started listening to older music and different genres and I was like, “This is cool!” I feel like before all I listened to was R&B. That was it. Now I listen to old rock and alternative music and a bunch of different stuff…including super old R&B like The Supremes.

What’s your writing process like, does it differ for each song?
It’s kind of whatever comes to me! Sometimes I’ll be driving and I’ll hear something in my head and pull out my phone and sing it into my phone’s voice notes. Thank god no one’s in the car with me cause I look insane! (laughs)

It just kind of depends. Normally I’ll have a writing session scheduled a few months or weeks in advance so I’ll kind of plan what I’m going to write for it. I’ll write things down in my notes as I get inspired and then I’ll look through my notes when I’m in the session and decide, “I want to write about this today.”

That leads us to another question – what inspires you?
Pretty much everything that goes on in my life! I can somehow find a way to dramatically sing about it (laughs). Normally I feel I kind of have to kind of exaggerate because, well, I’m really dramatic and emotional. My friend told me, “You’re the most emotional person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” and I was like, “But that’s why I have a career!”

I’m just inspired by my own emotions and f***ed up s*** people do to me (laughs). I turn it into good. So go ahead hurt me… I’ll make money (laughs).

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

You’ve been in LA for about 2.5 years, how is it?
I’m used to it by now, sometimes I actually forget that I live here now. LA used to seem like such a foreign concept to me – it was like, ‘Oh my gosh! LA! Celebrities!’

Now… I really don’t care, it’s just where I live. When people act like they’re really cool, it’s really funny to me. I just laugh…you just have to make a joke about it. I don’t want to hang out with people who are like that so I just surround myself with the good ones. I have my best friends! I live with 3 of my best friends and all my friends are amazing.

What do you think about the internet (streaming platforms, social media, etc.) and the music industry today?
It’s definitely helped a lot. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have, you know, Sound Cloud and Twitter – which is how everything happened, so I think it’s really cool. I feel like anyone can kind of do music now – if you get a mini keyboard and download Garage Band, you can literally do anything you want! It’s cool. I think the accessibility of it all is great.

My last song I released called “UDK” is about people assuming they know things about you because you put it online or you see them at a party one time and then they’re like “I know everything about her!” – so it enables people to think they know you because they see you when you’re posting. They think they’ve seen everything they need to know but really they don’t know anything about you.

What are you working on now?
I have an album hopefully coming out next year. I’m really excited about it! I’ve been working on music for almost 3 years now and all that time I was like, “Oh, I need to make an album!” But nothing ever felt like it went together and then in the past six months, every song I was making was different but still very cohesive and sounded like it could be part of a project. So now that I have that I’m like, “F*** yeah!” I’ll be releasing a bunch more singles and then the album!

Any upcoming shows?
Wow, I play Outside Lands in San Francisco in 2 days! Oh my god! And then Hot 100 Festival in Long Island and Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle.

Lastly, do you still enjoy going for long car rides?
At night, yes! At 3 am I’ll go drive around. When I’m sad. The place where we shot the “UDK” artwork is my place where I go to whenever I’m sad, it’s a really pretty view. I just go park my car and listen to music.

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

Olivia O’Brien

Sofya Wang

Sofya Wang

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